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Noblesse Oblige retro of best easy route @ Buffalo 28-Feb-2008 At 7:12:54 AM mikl law
There were rumblings that Joseph “Grollo” Goding , with the best of intentions was going to retrobolt Noblesse Oblige, something I’d also been planning to do, though probably with many less bolts.

I drove down to Buffalo Friday night and slept in the pine forest for a few hours, and met Geoff Gledhill (the other first ascenionist) at 8am. We left one car at Mackey’s Lookout and drove to the gully at the base of the route (as was suggested in the VCC update I found). We bashed up the gully for 15 minutes (not 45 minutes that the VCC update said) to the base of the slab, it would be much better to walk up the ridge about 50m further right I think, and avoid all the death scrambling which Geoff oozed up in Five-Tennies which I slithered down in my hiking shoes. We got onto the slab too high and had to solo down the first pitch back to the belay.

Geoff soloing back down Pitch 1, the black streak the route follows is visible over his shoulder higher up

The problem with (even well written) route descriptions is evident once you’ve used a few topos, we ignored the description for a second and picked out the obvious line (the black water streak) after which the description made more sense. Imagine if we hadn’t put it up originally! Starting on the right edge of the slab, Geoff went up a thin crack to a flake, then headed, too fast for me to belay easily, left and up to a big dish, where he belayed on a few hexes in a drummy flake.

I followed the pitch, checking out 2 good runners and placing a bolt runner to make it all obvious safe super family fun, about grade 6 or less. OhMyGod! these stainless Trubolts are fast and bomber, and expensive too. I also added a bolt to the belay and lead another easy pitch with some cams to the next big dish at the base of the black streak proper, and placed 2 bolts on the belay.

The next pitch is the steepest on the buttress and Geoff ran up it in his Five-tennies, there were only 2 slings on this so I added a bolt before the hard section. It’s hard to grade, but somewhere between 8 and 12 maybe? Geoff had a bush belay and I added a bolt.

Geoff in sandshoes on the crux pitch 3, heading up to a poor sling then towards where I placed a BR

The next pitch (P4) looks blank but the angle has eased a lot, one bolt runner, then up the slab to a traverse right to a big jug and sling belay that I added a bolt to also.

The next pitch (P5) is easy rambling up the groove; Geoff drilled a bolt runner and belayed off a bollard and a bolt.

Geoff drilling on pitch 5, the angle is nowhere as extreme as it appears

From here pitch 6 followed an easy diagonally traverse across a few cracks and flakes leading onto the next buttress and then followed another black streak past some more placements to a good ledge and bolt belay (by this time the angle is so low that I was happy to hang off a single bolt).

Geoff seconding P6

A random hex on pitch 6

Geoff ran up the next pitch with no gear (though I stopped for a breather and found a few placements, on this sort of climbing you don’t need chalk, you need an oxygen cylinder) to another scoop and placed another bolt belay. From here the climbing angle eases further, I ran diagonally up another pitch past a bush and across 2 streaks to a bolt belay and then Geoff and I simul-climbed on easy ground with lots of bushes for another 100m till we stepped flat-footed onto the Great Walk, about 30m from my car at Mackey’s Lookout.

The route is an absolute classic, certainly the best easy route I’ve done at Buffalo. I’d like to get a consensus on the grade , I think it’s somewhere between 8 and 13, has reasonable gear at the crux, and 10m runouts on climbing that is 4 or 5 grades easier than the crux climbing. Any more runners would spoil it, but one could equip the top 3 belays with a second bolt. It took us 2.5 hours, including a bit of cleaning and placing 13 bolts, so is a nice quick route. With sticky sandshoes and in the afternoon (shade), you wouldn’t need to carry water or shoes if you were fast. All bolts have fixed hangers.

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